Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Oscar Cocktails: 12 Years a Slave

Oscar Cocktails 12 Years a Slave

The movie 12 Years a Slave begins in 1841 when Solomon Northup, a free man from Saratoga Springs, New York, is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Taken from his life and family, he spends 12 years working on several Louisiana plantations, subjected to increasingly cruel conditions. The deeply affecting film is nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender), Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o) and Director (Steve McQueen).

As my starting point for the 12 Years a Slave drink, I used the Saratoga cocktail, a classic mix of brandy, whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters and lemon peel that was invented in the 19th Century in Saratoga Springs, New York. From there I modified the drink in ways to represent Northup's journey. Apple brandy is made in Virginia, near where Northup is kidnapped in Washington, D.C. I also rinsed the glass with Absinthe as a nod to the Sazerac, a classic cocktail invented in New Orleans where Northup is sold into slavery.

Oscar Cocktails: 12 Years a Slave

Absinthe, scant amount
1 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1 oz. apple brandy
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/2 lemon wheel (garnish)

Rinse a chilled coupe glass with absinthe. Combine whiskey, sweet vermouth, apple brandy and angostura bitters in a cocktail mixing glass with ice. Stir until combined and chilled, then strain into the chilled coupe. Garnish with lemon wheel.

Oscar Cocktails 12 Years a Slave

See all of this year's Oscar Cocktails.


  1. I like how your recipe pays homage to Solomon Northrop's roots as a free man. Nicely done.

    1. Thanks. My goal was to make the drink about him, since he's the focus of the movie, so I was lucky that there's a well-known cocktail invented where he's from that I could tweak a bit.